EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Sports

September 9, 2008

Wait 'til next year

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On Pro Football

Hector Longo

FOXBORO — Sorry folks, but without Tom Brady, I'm not buying it.

Quarterback play means everything in the National Football League and when Bernard Pollard's helmet tore through Tom Brady's planted left knee here Sunday afternoon, the Kansas City Chiefs safety shredded any chance of a championship season in New England.

The team announced yesterday the reigning NFL MVP needs season ending surgery.

The region has been spun into a state of shock. How else can you explain the wild, fanatical range of responses to the injury in the news, on sports radio and the blogosphere?

A great football team is now good, possibly even good enough to contend for supremacy in the AFC East.

But that's all. There are no title hopes here. Win the East, lose in January and Bill Belichick gets the commendation without the reigning MVP.

The reason? Simple, ordinary talent.

Take the quarterback, be it Matt Cassel, Kevin O'Connell, Chris Simms or whoever, out of the equation. New England's roster is nothing more than solid.

This is not a 2003, 2004 or even 2007 Patriots kind of roster, mainly because of the defense.

New England combined to go 44-4 in those three seasons. Even with a healthy Brady, this was not destined to be one of those overwhelming seasons. At least, a 14-2 in 2008, with the league's easiest slate, wouldn't have meant as much.

How far has the defense fallen?

It barely survived the Kansas City Chiefs!

The Chiefs netted 4.6 yards a snap and were the fourth of four Dwayne Bowe drops away from overtime | at hostile Gillette Stadium.

Bend-but-don't-break was fine when Brady was the Cinderella kid in 2001. It was even more palatable a year ago when Brady and Randy Moss authored their own chapter in the NFL record book.

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